Swaggin’ with the kids….

It’s 5am when i hear Phill roar,”ahhh” from his XL Burke & Wills swag….he’s woken to Harriet who has done a Poo- Armageddon through his swag. That pretty much gives you the idea of our recent adventure!

Prior to having children Phill and I were regular campers. We wouldn’t hesitate to chucking the swag on the roof for an adventure. We also had this great idea of when kids arrive they would just come along with us… boy did that idea change fast.

Due to having the comforts of a caravan we haven’t taken the kids camping in quite a while. So while we wait for our new van to be delivered we thought, for old times sake, lets go.

We were heading up to Tingha, NSW, for a quiet escape over new years. We met my parents at Wallabadah free camping area in town to break up the drive. What an awesome camp it is too! You can’t ask for much more than toilets, showers and an awesome park to entertain the kids all for a donation towards the up keep. The only draw back was it was approx 37 degrees at 9.30pm and we were roasting in the swags. Phill and I had a child each in the swags and even though we had the canvas pulled as far back as possible, with no breeze we were cooking like a sunday lamb roast. We all eventually got to sleep about 11.30pm with wet washers on our faces. I was awoken to the sound of 3 year old Harriet crying at 2am, she was standing at my parents caravan door yelling, “I need to go home, no swags”. The poor little thing was so over tired, hot and generally exhausted the first night she had already had enough. At 3 yrs old, she knew exactly what she wanted, she climbed into Nanny and Poppys air conditioned caravan and fell straight asleep between them! Golly we had 6 more nights of this!

Awaking early the next morning with about 4hrs sleep we slowly packed up and got on the road keen to arrive at Tingha to settle in of a week of rest, fossicking and general exploring.

While Tilly slept quite well between her complaining about being hot, Harriet had woken with another high tempreture we had been fighting the week before. Phill had also woken with a bad tummy bug which was causing him quite a bit of pain. We dropped into Tamworth chemist and happily purchased $100 worth of medcines in the hope of still creating a lovely week away and had a nice slow drive to Tingha.

Arriving to the township of Tingha was lovely. Very neat cottages with picket fencing and extremely clean. We noticed all the houses had small fences around them and then the local herd of cattle were able to roam freely between each persons yard finding greenery where they can. We made a bee line for Tingha Gems Caravan Park were we were greeted by a very quiet camp site, looking very dry in the recent drought. The caretaker Craig came to greet us and not only informed us that they were putting on a free bbq for New Years Eve but children actually are free to stay during school holidays. What a great incentive to get families visiting!

Over the next few days we spent relaxing around camp and exploring local areas. This was all done while we fought terrible tummy bugs and high temps and 40+ degree days. Unfortunetly the kids were hit the worst. They were so tired and exhausted from being up all night with terrible cramps and temps, we were definately thankful of the caravan park laundry we had to visit every day. Over the week we were often greeted with comments like, “not the swag again” or “I’m never going to leave our caravan”. Soon both kids were saying, “I hate camping”.

By the last day we had started to all improve enough to go and do some metal detecting of the old mining camps. This was very interesting to find old relics like an old miners shovel or antique bottles. One thing we love most about the area was the huge variety of gems you could easily fossick for in the area. We bought home a nice little collection of crystals and smokey quartz to admire.

Before we knew it, it was our day to leave and we were all completely exhausted from sickness, heat and general lack of sleep that we realised we had spent most of our time in the toilets, laundry or floating in the dam behind the caravan park trying to cool down.

We had the idea to head home taking our time and stop when we felt to tired rather than applying pressure to arrive anywhere in particular . By the time we arrived in Singleton, it was 42 degrees outside, I had been taken down by the tummy bug and us girls were all demanding real beds with air con. We had a lovely stop at a local motel and the kids greeted us with huge smiles as we opened the door to the motel as Matilda announced, “oh I’m never leaving a real bed again”.

Key places to visit:

Inverell

National Transport Museum

Copeton Dam

Bingara

There is plenty of beautiful free camps in this area.

Guyra

This town is one of the highest in Australia 1330m above sea level.

Uralla

Well known for the death and mystery of bushranger Caotain thunderbolt.

KAON 150 Land Cruiser Prado under vehicle protection plates

Resized_20180917_174934_8026Since getting into four wheel driving many years ago with our trusty Nissan Navara, we quickly realised modifications and accessories were in order to make it more practical for our specific needs.

It’s not hard to imagine that the tough terrain we put our four-wheel drives through, demands some rugged gear to get you to those great Aussie outback destinations and beyond but also home again.

By the end of the ownership of our Navara, we had installed a multitude of accessories including a bull bar for frontal protection, a rear bar which incorporated a tow bar and step for both rear protection and rear access. Finally a canopy with a roof rack for storage of all the gear we will need to tackle our great country with ease. These modifications allowed us to complete some awesome and memorable adventures without any issues.

The good old Navs

Having outgrown the Navara due to it limited rear seat space, we reluctantly traded the Navara in for a Toyota Prado. This was a decision we now have no regrets. The difference between the vehicles are like night and day. The Prado was like jumping ahead in time with the technological advantages over the Navara which was a more than capable vehicle, particularly off road. The new Prado would take a bit of time to get used to with all of its fancy buttons.

Again, initial mods included the installation of the tried and tested bar work, which also included brush bars for extra side protection with tubular side steps. In addition, we also opted for some underbody protection to keep the undercarriage free of damage.

We quickly came to the realisation that without a suspension lift, the underbody now slung a bit closer to the ground and vulnerable to damage.

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Pic of old underbody plates fitted.

An example of such anticipated damage occurred on a beautiful Saturday afternoon, we were cruising up one of our favourite tracks near our weekend camp. We slowly tackled a bumpy rocky incline which we had driven many times previously to suddenly feel the impact of a rock on one of our underbody protection bash plates. After inspecting the caved in plate and sighting that the underbody protection had done its job, our thoughts then turned to the strength of the plates. It was a surprise to see such a dent on a plate that we thought was so solid. But then again, the rock shelf we impacted on must have been that much harder and shown the scars of previous adventurers that had tackled the same track. At this point we also decide a suspension lift would be a good idea

Another instance was a small to medium rock on a dipped track near a campsite that again impacted on one of the plates ever so softly. This impact resulted in yet another decent dent. Ultimately, the plates served a purpose and it isn’t to look all nice and pretty. Upon returning home, the plates came off and were bashed back into shape with a trusty sledge hammer before being painted and reinstalled.

Due to being unsatisfied with this underbody protection. We started researching some more heavy-duty plates and stumbled across the Aussie company KAON. KAON, based in Carole Park QLD, make a great assortment of gear for the Toyota Prado including underbody protection plates made from 4mm steel rather than the 3mm plates previously installed.

Due to the price being competitive with great reviews, the decision had been made to buy the KAON plates.

It would have taken no more than an hour to swap out the plates. A visual comparison of both sets of the plates, it is evident that the KAON plates appear much more rugged and offer a greater area of protection with ventilation for hot underbody components. An added advantage is also a large inspection hole to allow for easy servicing without having to remove the plates.

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Comparison of underbody plates. Old on the bottom and KAON on the top.

During the installation process, it became evident that the KAON plates fit much closer to the undercarriage of the Prado compared to the previous set. The KAON plates allow for the removal of factory bracing due to the incorporation of welded in gussets which in turn allow for greater ground clearance and a much better approach angle for off road action.

Old plates on the left and KAON plates on the right. Note the greater approach angle on the KAON plates.

Since the installation of the KAON underbody protection plates, aside from being marginally heavier, no other disadvantages have been encountered.We no longer have concerns of the plates bending under minor impacts as we did previously and have a greater confidence off-road.

20180812_121400Pic of KAON plates installed.

With the great quality of the KAON underbody protection plates, we can rest assure that we will reach our off-road destination and return home again without the fear of being stranded with disabling underbody damage. Stay tuned in the future for the fitment of further KAON gear.

For more on KAON’s Toyota Prado gear, check out: https://www.kaon.com.au/store/c15/PRADO_150_%282009-Current%29_GX470.html

The plates described above: https://www.kaon.com.au/store/p78/Toyota_Prado_150_Under_Body_Guards_-_Heavy_Duty_4mm.html

And videos: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCEQOQuHnTyVRsKmmhyEBfVQ

Lake Hart to Uluru

Monday 3/7/17-

Now that we have our morning pack up routine running as smooth as a fine clock, we were on the road by 9am. The girls in the back and the tunes pumping. The days destination was Cooper Pedy, a mere 250 off kilometre drive. The drive was fairly uneventful, however the surroundings on this drive went from bare dry dusty vistas to one that contained ants nest type of diggings.

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Lake Hart.

We arrived at Cooper Pedy by lunch and topped up our fuel at the servo. To our surprise, we received a discount on the fuel purely because we were travellers. Having not spoken to anyone, we decided to set up at the free camp on the outskirts of town due to all of the paid sites that we checked being full. We weren’t concerned, as there was definitely no need for power for heating etc due to the temp reaching over 30 degrees Celsius. We set up and headed back into town to check out the sights. I guess it wasn’t a surprise that we visited the vast number of Opal stores in town, after all the Opal is what put Cooper Pedy on the map. Many of the shops and residential premises in town and the surrounding district are underground. One such place is the Catholic Church which was open for visitors.

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Cooper Pedy Catholic Church.

Cooper Pedy is a bit of a quirky town, one of the opal shops had is own home made ‘Space relic’ akin to the Millennium Falcon from Star Wars. As we only had a one night stop, we stocked up on some supplies and headed back to camp.

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Space junk at an opal shop?

Upon our arrival back at camp we were greeted by European back packers in Toyota Hiace type vans we affectionately called ‘Whiz Bangers’, after the sound their sliding doors make when being opened and closed over and over and over and over again… The ‘Whiz Bangers’  had set up within about 10 metres of our camp. Ordinarily, this would be a bit on an invasion of our personal space given that when we set up on a mere 3 hours or so ago, there was no one nearby, nor was there now, except for the ‘Whiz Bangers’ of course. The only saving grace was that they were awesome vocal musicians which helped us drift off to sleep.

Again, come 9am the following morning, we were ready and on the road. Now came the terrible task of emptying the camping toilet that the girls so love to use. The terrible part of this ordeal was the awful mess created by other travellers that don’t seem to have their aim right when emptying their waste……… I’ll leave the rest to your imagination.

Anyhow, needless to say, after that we were on our way. The destination being somewhere near the South Australian and Norther Territory Border. The days drive was an easy one. Appointment’s came to Phill at lunch when we had lunch at the Marla Roadhouse. It was his realisation of the missed adventure that would have been the Oodnandatta track which travels along the path to the now disused ‘Old Ghan’ railway line. Due to rain and wet roads, we decided against travelling on it. However, it is a trip we will be making the pilgrimage to tackle in the future.

With lunch done and dusted, we hit the road and arrived at the South Australian an Northern Territory Border. We again set up and even managed to make a little fire to relax around. The following morning, we were on the road by that amazing hour of 9am on our way to Uluru.

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SA NT border.

Again the drive was one of outback arid surroundings. We stopped for lunch at the Erldunda roadhouse were we shown the girls the Emus they had there. If you’re interested, look up what sound they make. It blew Phil’s mind. Listen here: https://youtu.be/Lkg7_6iaPdY. Anyhow, after lunch, off we went to the resort township at Uluru, Yulara.

To our surprise, we had to wait to enter the campground. There were at least 20 vehicles ahead of us!. Turns out it was School Holidays and the place was packed… We eventually got through and had to set up in the dusty ‘Overflow’ campground out the back. It wasn’t bad, however to use the amenities one would have to walk about 200 metres there and back. This slight inconvenience was all worth it.

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Our fist shot of Uluru!

Although we had been to Uluru not long after first getting together back in 2010, Uluru in it amazing beauty did not disappoint. More on that next time. Also out comes a secret we managed to keep…

Our top 5 low cost or free camps close to Sydney.

We have been travelling Australia on and off for years now but nothing beats the chance to have a little weekend getaway to escape reality and drift away into the dream lifestyle for a few days..

These 5 places are the areas we love to explore over a weekend close to Sydney. They are usually free or extremely low cost making it affordable for us as a family of four.

Newnes, NSW

Newnes is located 2.5hrs from our place on the outskirts of western Sydney. It is within the Wollemi National Park and is currently free (http://www.nationalparks.nsw.gov.au/camping-and-accommodation/campgrounds/newnes-campground ). The main camping ground is easily accessible to 2wd vehicles by dirt road and has amazing views right from your camp site. This area has very clean pit toilets, no power and an abundance of wildlife. There is a large amount of history here being an old shale mining industrial area. Be sure to go for a wander around the old ruins and take a drive out to the glow worm tunnels. If you are set up for it, there is also a vast variety of 4wding tracks for all levels of ability to enjoy.

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Hill End, Nsw

Hill End is located just outside of Bathurst. The camping grounds are within National Park and come with a small National Parks Fee (https://www.nationalparks.nsw.gov.au/visit-a-park/parks/hill-end-historic-site). What more could you ask for when going away; this place has it all . This camp ground is perfect for us with hot showers, flushing toilets, fire pits, laundry and a camp kitchen right in the middle of town. You can also have the choice of power or non powered sites. It is an easy stroll into town to walk the historical sites as well as visit the old pub, grab a refreshing coffee at the café and visit the information centre.

Hill End

Yerranderrie, NSW

Yerranderie is a longer drive from Sydney but it will not disappoint. (http://www.nationalparks.nsw.gov.au/visit-a-park/parks/yerranderie-regional-park). You can have the choice of power or non power sites and the views you will see here are absolutely incredible. There’s large mountains and steep drives as well as a huge collection of history you could spend weeks down here sifting through all the old silver mines of yesteryear.

 

Glen Davis, NSW

Glen Davis is only a short drive from Newnes. It has a lovely little camp ground with very clean pit toilets. The area has a large variety of animal life as well as a huge industrial history similar to Newnes. Glen Davis has a more recent activity having closed in the mid 1950’s. (https://www.visitnsw.com/destinations/blue-mountains/lithgow-area/lithgow/attractions/glen-davis-ruins) . There are still buildings here to look at. Be sure to jump on the local tour of the old ruins every Saturday, its definitely worth your time.

 

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Wombeyan Caves, NSW

Womebyan Caves is 2.5 hrs from our place on the outskirts of Western Sydney. We find it a perfect distance to get away for the weekend. Wombeyan caves is within the Wombeyan Karst Conservation Reserve (http://www.nationalparks.nsw.gov.au/camping-and- accommodation/campgrounds/wombeyan-caves-campground) This area has powered and non powered sites, all with access to amenities, drinking water and bbqs.

 

Be sure to check out the places to stay close to Sydney. Get out there and have a go kickin’ up dust and makin’ tracks!

Patsy the Prado mods…. Rear door bracket.

The decision was made early, before we even purchased the Prado, that we would be installing bigger and better quality tyres than standard to suit the on and off road action that we wanted to do. We opted for bigger rolling diameter Mickey Thompson ATZ P3 which we had used on a previous vehicle. We previously found them to be an awesome durable tyre that provided us great confidence in all conditions.

The downside to this, was that the spare wheel on the rear door no longer fit within the rear wheel cover and even worse, came in contact with the rear door. The solution was simple. We looked around and decided on the common modification of installing a rear wheel spacer. We chose a reputable company and made the purchase. The spacer is a bracket made of thick steel that simply spaces the spare tyre about 25mm away from the rear door.

One afternoon, only a week or so out from our dream trip to Darwin and back Phill decided the time was right to install the bracket. This late decision led to a frustration that we have been living with since about mid way through our holiday trip from Alice Springs to Chambers Pillar.

The job was easy, pull all of the factory spare wheel carrier and brackets from the rear door and start the installation of the wheel carrier bracket. This is where things didn’t seem right….

The cutouts didn’t seem large enough. The surface that mounted to the rear door was not clearing an extrusion on the door where the pressed sheet metal on the door interfered with the mounting of the bracket. Given we only had a short amount of time before our trip and we needed the bracket on and the chunky new spare tyre fitted. Phill decided to space the bracket out further with thick galvanised washers between the door and the bracket which seemed to work.

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An advantage of this spacer kit was the optional extra camp light which we think is pretty cool. This installation required a further supplied bracket to be bolted to the spacer. However, due to the need of electrical work which Phill was to complete even closer to our trip departure, the light bracket was installed but not the light just yet.

With the spare tyre installed, Patsy looked ready to conquer the world. She was no longer the car park warrior that most Prados seem to be.

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Now going back to the issue we identified on the drive out from Alice to Chambers Pillar. We began to hear the most excruciating rattle come from the rear door. Upon returning to our camp at Alice, Phill pulled the whole bracket off and re installed it finding that it had been rubbing on the same pressed steel extrusion mentioned earlier with a fair amount of bull dust between the door and bracket. This repair, which included a clean and the application of tape, seemed short lived. We again found that after a short drive out to the gaps and gorges, the rattle developed once again. Phill developed an expert type of skill removing the bracket, he removed it a number more times on our trip including at the most amazing Mataranka. It was at this point Phill decided to complain to the manufacturer who gladly sent a new one out to home.

Once back at home, the new bracket was installed but a rattle is still present, probably part and parcel of owning a modified 4wd. This led to the decision to research a new rear bar consisting of a swing out wheel carrier and twin jerry can holder, mainly to carry extra water as Patsy seems to carry more than enough fuel in her twin fuel tanks. But more of that later. Stay tuned for our next update on our ‘rattling’ awesome adventure.

 

 

Destination: Jugiong, NSW

We were yearning for a quick weekend escape that wasnt too far from home but a place that was rich with history and adventure……

After a brief investigation of the Hume Highway, we decided that early Friday morning we would casually head to a little weekend getaway to the quaint country town of Jugiong, NSW. It turns out that Jugiong has an awesome history dating back to the Gold rush of the early days, bushrangers and of course is on the Old Hume. This fit our ideas perfectly.

My parents had recently been through the area on their own trip and raved about the free camp, the local pub and cafes. So of course being so close to home we had to have a visit. We were packed and on the Hume Highway by 10 am with a scheduled stop at the famed Paragon Cafe in Goulburn for lunch.

We arrived in Jugiong late in the afternoon to find quite a few acres of lovely flat ground which backed onto the Murrumbidgee river. As we drove in we were greeted with clean toilets, a great park for the kids, and PLENTY of space.

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Out the front of the free camp is a large display about the death of Sargent Parry.  In 1864, Sargent Parry was involved in a shoot out with Ben Hall and his unruly Bushranger Gang while attempting to rob the mail coach. Sergeant Parry sadly lost his life. As a result of Ben Hall and the actions of his gang, they were deemed to be ‘outlaw bushrangers’ as per new legislation. This meant that they could be shot on sight and ultimately led to Ben Hall’s end. Such laws commenced the start of the end of their type of crime. The artistic display is a great display which describes the events of the time and a steel sculpture that depicts Sargent Parry and his horse.

 

This area also follows the Murrumbidgee River so we had a look but realised it was a little too deep and fast flowing for us to want to camp too close with the kids. We chose a spot up near the amenities which gave us plenty of flat ground safe for the kids to run wild away from people. We settled in for a lovely BBQ dinner and got the girls to bed early. Of course by 7.30 pm the kids were over tired and it took us 3hrs to get them asleep so we just crashed out with them.

 

We were up reasonably early the following morning after a beautiful FULL night sleep. It has been a long time that both of our girls had slept through the night together, so Phill and I woke up on cloud 9 and ready to have a wonderful day of exploring! I still don’t understand how children work but Matilda and Harriet both woke up super cranky and just weren’t interested in anything but the opposite to what we had planned.

We went for a walk across the road to the local pub and shops. The pub looked very inviting so we were keen to have a look around while the kids dragged their feet behind us. Apparently they had recently done the outside of the pub up so it was just so inviting for families. There was lots of green grass, a cubby house and sand pit, beautiful gardens, a huge veggie patch that was flourishing and so much history.

 

While we were at the pub both the girls put on a show of tantrums. This was where Tilly told us to leave her at the pub she didn’t want to leave, much to the laughter of locals and tourists. We had a quick look around the local shops which looked awesome, but far too boutique for us to want to risk taking the kids inside.

While on the way back from our walk we found a small box selling local chicken eggs via a donation box. Unfortunetly they were all sold out as we love to support locals. By this point both children were complaining so much for Phill to carry them, it made for quite a sight to see!

 

We went for a drive to Gundagai for a look around the local area. I had done some research recently about the old town of Gundagai and the terrible flood of 1852. This flood had unfortunately killed almost 1/3 of the population and is still considered one of Australia’s worst natural disasters on record. I was keen to take my metal detector and have a look around. The area where the old town was, is now lovely flat paddocks that go underneath the very historical bridges of Gundagai which were once a part of the old mighty Hume Higway. This area was so tranquil and we enjoyed reading the local plaques, monuments and just in general watching the local stock feed from the grass. We showed Matilda around the area where she really understood the significance of what had occurred which i was surprised at only being 4 years old. We had a little go at metal detecting and found a very old horse shoe and some bolts, much to Matilda’s excitement. The grounds were so calming and quiet we instead decided to enjoy some family time having a lovely picnic and enjoying the views and sunshine.

 

On our way back to camp, we tried to use as many back roads as we could just to see something different. What we couldn’t believe was how bad the drought is here, only being 3 hours from home. It was very moving to see the sheep or cattle struggling to find food on the bare paddocks. This made us feel even more determined to support these local communities as much as we can.

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We had arrived back to camp in time to head to the lovely pub across the road for dinner and a few drinks. The Hotel is an awesome sight, the ‘Sir George’ which has the charms of an old pub dating back to 1852. I remember saying to Phill, “the girls wont like the where were going for dinner, so if we start off with bad expectations then it can only get better”. Well it was a lovely dinner; the girls sat with us and chatted while watching a movie on the Ipad. After dinner we walked back to camp and crashed out. The next morning we casually packed up, hit the road and made our way home, pleased we had a great weekend away and vowed to head off that way again soon. Very soon……..

 

 

 

 

The half lap- Part 3- June 2017

We left Broken Hill reasonably early wanting to make good time heading towards Quorn, SA. We were now getting into uncharted territory for us so we were unsure what was ahead.

We found the roads fantastic, compared to back home, and travelled along easily and uneventful. Our girls travelled great and were on the look out for any wildlife but unfortunately we didn’t see anything. We went through Peterborough and absolutely fell in love with the rustic charm of what once was a major rail junction. We both made a note we will definitely be returning here in the near future.

We arrived in Quorn and went straight to the local caravan park where thankfully got powered sites. We were watching the forecasts and knew we were in for a few 0 degree nights. The amenities were great and were fantastically clean. We had 2 nights here where we got a lovely chance to wine and dine with our friends from home who were on their way back from their own Central Australian trip. We spent our entire day looking around the beautiful country town learning of its historical significance on the old Ghan train line. Although we only spent two nights here, it had so much history and character we would love to make it back here in the near future to explore the area more.

While we were having a lovely time in Quorn we learnt Oodnadatta and the area had been receiving some much needed rain which meant all the roads were closed. This meant we were going to have to miss out on completing the Oodnadatta Track and were going to head straight up the Stuart Highway.

After spending our second night at Quorn, we were up early and packed up ready for another day of driving. I remember being so impressed that morning by how great the girls were doing at getting up and ready on these early starts. We found if we got them all ready we would pop them in the car with breakfast and a movie to watch. This would allow us the chance to quickly pack everything up safely and be able to move the 4wd around and hook the van up without worrying about where the girls were.

We were now heading towards the Stuart Highway. As we were travelling I was consulting our Wikicamps app to work out ruffly where we were going to stay. We had been recommended to stop at Lake Hart just past Woomera. Phill and I had made a decision that where ever we are travelling we want to be pulling into camp at about 2-3pm. Even if that meant we wouldn’t make our scheduled stop. There was no need to rush this trip that it would become unsafe.

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We found we had jinxed ourselves when talking about how good the girls were travelling. The girls started complaining about being stuck in their seats which made the days drive very long….. This very long trip involved stopping often when Harriet became inconsolable. We decided to stop for lunch at Woomera and have a good walk around. We honestly found this town so bizarre. It reminded me of  a ghost town out of a movie. All we needed is a tumble grass to roll across the road in front of us. We had a good look at the rocket displays which Matilda absolutely loved as you could get nice and close to them. Some of the rockets had been recovered from the Simpson Desert many years after being launched, due to being buried in sand in the very remote and isolated desert. The information centre is very informative and has quite a variety of the usual souvenirs. The most interesting thing we found about the information building was it had a bowling alley that was straight from the 1980’s. It was honestly like we had gone back in time and was very strange but interesting to show the kids. Phill managed to get stuck looking at the display depicting the story of ‘the last true Australian explorer’ Len Beadell. He is the famous surveyor that was responsible identifying the site of Woomera for the Australian and British governments as a secret long range rocket test site. Of course, Len Beadell later opened up much of outback Australia with his ‘Gunbarrel  road construction party’ where he would aim for his roads to be as straight as a gunbarrel hence the name of the famous ‘Gunbarrel higway’. Len Beadell was responsible for creating over 6000kms of our outback Australian roads.

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After a couple of hours we were hitting the tarmac again aiming for an arrival into Lake Hart. The camp was great. We arrived at our ideal time, about 3 in the arvo and found a spot ready to view a spectacular sunset over the lake which was actually a salt lake with a small amount of water in it. An interesting note is this place was used to launch a number of rockets in the past.

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Apart from the view, another aspect that made this camp one of the best on our trip was the fact that the Ghan train would come past. Phill especially loved this aspect being a mad train nerd….. Phill even said “This camp is simply amazing listening to the thundering trains roll across the steel tracks into the horizon”. Although Phill may have been teasing me when he said that comment as I was writing in my journal at the time.

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We managed to get the girls asleep and sit up looking at the stars. Before we knew it, we were up early and hitting the road again. We had to reach Uluru in a matter of days to surprise the girls and our travelling convoy.

Review #1- ‘Peg less washing line’

We recently acquired a peg less washing line to try on our adventures. We are currently at home in prep mode so I decided why not try it in the back yard when I had a load of towels and blankets washing. I thought if this washing line doesn’t hold the towels or blanket then I know if wont hold a load of underwear.

The first thing I love about this product is it displays ‘Made in Australia’ on the packaging. We can never go past supporting Australian made products so straight away it was a win for me. I was a little disappointed that the plastic bag it comes in isn’t reusable, it would be awesome if it was resealable. That certainly wont stop me though, just means i will have to get my sewing machine out and make a funky bag for it so we don’t loose all the pieces 🙂

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Assembly was so simple, quick and very self explanatory. There was no need to read the instructions on the packaging. Our 4 year old helped me out it together, and then she even wanted to help me hang the washing… i think i’ll keep encouraging this interest in the new clothes line.

Hanging up the towels and blankets I was a little concerned it wouldn’t hold and was super impressed when it held them with ease. I thought being quite heavy they would just slip out but it did the job perfect. I could have easily fit one more towel on there if needed. The length of it is great at 2 m. I don’t think you would want it any shorter or longer due to being a perfect size for an awning…well it fits our van awning perfect.

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Overall we love the design and concept and will happily be leaving the bag of pegs and extra rope at home. It folds up super small and above all is so light weight it can fit anywhere.

If you would love to support a great Australian Made product by yours today through the link:

https://www.caravanningwithkids.com.au/vanessah/1

Travelling with kids

So many people have asked how do we travel with kids so young. It can be so difficult at times, in such tiny quarters and not a lot of room to yourself. These are just a few things that have worked for us.

Look at your set up…

When we had our first daughter we were still using a swag. We had this grand idea of how lovely it would be having a new born sleeping between us all night long, while camping in the natural bush land with the light smell of fire smoke in the cool air. How mistaken were we… We did however get back to camping when our daughter was 8 weeks old in the tent we still currently have. It rained most of the weekend, so our tent leaked and there wasn’t must to do outside without having bubs get saturated. Although it absolutely didn’t scare us away from these adventures, it did make us look at our set up and how good it is for kids. Now that i think about it, most of our purchases and set ups we have since had, have always been around the kids and making life on the road easier for us all to cope.

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Routines

I have always been the type of parent who hasn’t been too fussed about routines, until our youngest daughter Harriet arrived. She threw us a curve ball we never expected and she would only settle with a very strict routine every night. So obviously i continued this to make travelling easier for the girls. While on our half lap in 2017 it took about 3-4 weeks before the girls settled into the life of being on the road.  Our girls aren’t the best sleepers anyway, so I was very anxious in wanting it to always be smooth and stress free. 

Remembering they are just kids

Both our children are very head strong and can be very stubborn (they take after their dad, not me at all). We were finding on the road they were getting very overwhelmed with lots of things happening and moving camps often. We had to remind ourselves they are just kids who want to play. So most of our driving days were mainly about hunting for the best parks we could find. These games gave our girls something to look out for along the way and chat about, as well as the excitement on finding one and spending time just with them playing. Many times when your in the middle on no where and theres just rocks for miles, we had to get inventive about what can be used as a park. Many trees or large rocks became climbing parks.

Toys

We had packed so many toys, crafts, and games as I just didn’t know what to expect on the road. I can now 100% say our girls barely used any of them. The main things they used along the way were playdough, blocks, drawing and reading books. If they weren’t using these toys they were playing with other children we met along the way, or playing in the dirt somewhere. Being on the road for so long gave us an eye opening experience about minimalism and how we just didn’t need as much ‘stuff’ as we took. Nature is such a vast learning tool for children and we could see them thriving off seeing so many things in their natural environments.

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Above everything I have written I always thought of travelling as something I love to experience to see our beautiful country and wonderful people. Now we travel with kids I find we base it all on giving our children the opportunities to learn about our  its culture, beauty and diversity. Nothing beats seeing your child’s face light up over something they can see, touch smell or hear. Travelling isn’t just about relaxing and having time away from work for us. It’s all about  having different experiences and most of all making wonderful memories as a family we will cherish forever.

Let’s all kick up dust and make some memories…

Yerranderrie, NSW

Come on the long weekend adventure where we leave the caravan at home!

For the Easter long weekend we decided to visit Yerranderrie, NSW. It has always been on our list to visit as we are avid history buffs.

My family originated from Burragorang Valley so I had spent a bit of time as a child camping in Yerranderrie but not as an adult.

We have always been advised not to take our caravan into the Yerranderrie. Now that we have driven it I am so glad we decided to take the tent. The roads were just way to tight with very hairy corners. I just dont think our 17ft van would make it around and I can’t fathom what would happen if we met someone coming the other way. Just driving the 4wd on the road in was tight enough.

We have friends who own private property in Yerranderrie so we arrived at their place and had the tent set up by lunch time.

Our tent is a Freedom camping tent and is actually the exact same one I grew up camping in while travelling Australia with my parents. So it’s an old (older than I’d care to mention) and trusted tent that never fails us, except for the heavy storms where the front zippers will leak. Thankfully we have a large tarp on the front that allows us plenty of shelter for meals preps, playing with toys or happy hours.

So the last time we used this tent Matilda, 4 years, was actually 8 weeks old. So we were a little niave about what ‘real’ camping with 2 toddlers would have install for us. Boy … did we get a slap in the face.

We settled into bed quite late after catching up with everyone around the fire. Obviously last time we had used our individual sleeping bags was many years ago and being so confined was just horrendous. It was too cold to sleep with them open but way to confined to comfortably sleep with it done up so we suddenly weren’t sleepy but just frustrated.

As we were laying in our constriction bags, trying to see the humour, Matilda began coughing a really bad croup sounding bark. Like any parents we check on her, zipped up her sleeping bag and just as we settle in…the vomitting started. With most first nights away on holidays Tilly gets so excited and anxious, its like a tradition she has of being sick on the first night. By now its 2am and we are regretting staying up late as we now have to begin the clean up! Pillow, sleeping bag and her matress are saturated in milk vomit, I quickly toss it all outside thinking to myself, I’ll deal with it tomorrow.

Now we are a mattress, pillow and sleeping bag down and no spares, we do a shuffle and Harriet jumps into bed between Phill and I. I wrap Harriet in my sleepong bag trying to keep her warm and I add more clothes layers, find a thin blanket we use on the back seat of our 4wd and wrap myself in a ball. We settle into a few hours of broken sleep while checking on the girls every hour, praying for no chucks.

Our girls were up at 6am bright eyed and full of energy as all children are at that time. We popped a movie on the ipad for them and had another hour snooze while Frozen kept their attention.

We drove straight intothe small historic village of Yerranderrie where we pulled up in time for lunch. We were very quickly greeted by an urban looking national parks cowboy telling us it was $6 per person to look around the historical ghost town. As we paid our fees we were given a map and a basic guide of directions to walk in. We had a wander around the ‘main street’ looking at the buildings still standing and reading corresponding information on each structure. This gave a great insight into the buildings historical significance.

While looking around town we had a chance to check out the camping ground in town. This was a lovely place to set up camp for a weekend. It is currently $12 pp/night which includes a wonderful camp kitchen, firewood for the camp ground individual fire rings and an amenities block i can only describe as almost as beautiful as my bathroom at home. We both decided we will definately be returning to this camp site one day.

On our way back to camp we also had a quick look at the free camp which is located just out of town at the old original police station and court house. I unfortunately didnt get any photos of it but we would highly recommend the free camp here as well. It was lovely and grassy, clean drop toilets and above all FREE! This is also an easy walk to the old original cemetry which is very special to be given the chance to walk around. Just reading some of the headstones makes you think of how hard life would have been. Many of the graves were those of children and young men who met their end in tragic mine accidents.

We got back to our camp late in the afternoon ready to cook up a lovely BBQ dinner and some relaxing by the fire. We decided we would settle into bed early tonight to try and catch up on sleep especially as the easter bunny is suppose to arrive. With everyone in their own clean and dry beds we go to sleep quickly. As usual with our children we are woken by Harriet now coughing badly. She proceeded to cough, cry and whimper all night until i gave in and let her snuggle into Daddy and I squizzed into her bed.

The girls were up at 5am (thanks daylight savings) and very excited the easter bunny had remembered to come. So our day started early and this mumma had enough. I sat down outside, too tired to worry about how much chocolate the girls were consumming, and for the first time in my life i told Phill, “i want to go home”. Now as you can tell travel and adventures with my family are the most treasured experiences in my life and to want to leave early i think Phill was very shocked. We were just so tired from no sleep from the last two nights and such early starts.

We were packed up and hitting the road home by lunchtime. We wanted to go home a different route this time so we turned off the main road (Colong Stock route) as much as we could to use some less used fire trails. Having a gps is very handy so we never felt lost or unsure of where we were. We found a few good challenging tracks which required low range and engaging down hill assist in the Prado. Doing tracks like these make us realise how much we need a lift for the Prado soon.

On our way home we also drove through Wombeyan Caves and Wollondilly station camping grounds. As usual i always come home wanting to see more of the surrounding areas and I would love to visit these areas in the future but we will avoid the crowds on the long weekends.